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Information Guide for Welcoming International Students and Trainees during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last update: July 22, 2021

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The information preceded by the icon has been modified as of the date of the last update of the guide. It is your responsibility to check for updates, especially regarding travel restrictions.

If you are you currently outside of Canada and that you are your beginning or continuing your studies or your research activities at INRS this fall 2021, this guide is for you. It gives you the information you need to consider the different aspects related to your possible arrival or to studying from outside of Canada. Whether you are new to INRS or you have already begun your program, most of the following information applies to you.

How to proceed

1. Check to see if it is possible for you to enter Canada

To determine this, please consult the section Who can come to Canada? which summarizes the travel restrictions based on the progress of your immigration process.


2. If you are eligible to enter Canada, talk to your supervisor about the travel restrictions

If it is possible for you to come, talk to your supervisor at INRS. If you need access to one of our laboratories for your research activities or if both you and your supervisor believe that it is better for you to physically be in Canada for the quality or success of your training, consider the following aspects, described in this document:


3. If you agree with your supervisor that your presence in Quebec is non-optional

1) Notify the Service des études et de la vie étudiante about your decision by writing to sve@inrs.ca.

2) Your supervisor will provide you with the name of a support person to assist you in your preparations and upon arrival, copying sve@inrs.ca at the same time.


Who can come to Canada?

Progress of the immigration file and obtaining the required documents

The synthesis below is based on the instructions given on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. INRS can currently receive international students. Consult the Travel exemptions and restrictions for international students section on the IRCC website.


Short-term internships

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On September 7, 2021, provided that the domestic epidemiologic situation remains favourable, the Government intends to open Canada’s borders to any fully vaccinated travellers who have completed the full course of vaccination with a Government of Canada-accepted vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering Canada and who meet specific entry requirements. See the news release.

This means that students would once again be allowed to come to Canada for short-term internships without a study permit or work permit as long as internships do not require remuneration or registration at INRS for more than 6 months. The announcement indicates that, for citizens and permanent residents of the United States, this opening will be possible as of August 9.

However, it is suggested to wait for the release to become effective before making commitments in this regard.


Students and postdoctoral fellows

Here is what you can do according to the progress of your immigration process:


A) Students – Valid Canadian Study Permit or Letter of Introduction1 obtained | Trainees – Valid Work Permit

Students and trainees who have these documents can enter the country if their institution is on the list of approved institutions, which is the case for INRS. However, travel will not be considered essential if you are entering Canada for a reason other than that for which the permit was issued. Arriving in Canada more than one month before the start of your studies may be interpreted negatively in this regard.

1 The Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction, sometimes called the Correspondence Letter, Introduction or Introductory Letter, is the letter received from IRCC if you have been approved for a study permit or work permit. You must show this letter to officials at the port of entry when you arrive in Canada to get your permit.


B) Students – Application for Study Permit in progress | Trainees – Application for Work Permit in progress

Students and trainees at this stage of the process have to deal , in some cases, with the total or partial closure of their visa application center (VAC). Globally, the average processing time varies depending on the country of residence, but significant delays are still observed because of the pandemic.


C) Application for a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) in progress

Students at this stage should consider that the processing time for the CAQ is normally 20 working days, but significant delays were reported since the beginning of the pandemic. Considering the time required for the study or work permit once the biometrics have been provided, someone at this stage should not plan to be able to come before several months.


Obligations for travellers

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A set of measures applies for all travellers entering Canada according to their situation. You must check the requirements for persons entering by air. For a summary, see also the Air arrival measures diagram. Those arriving by land via the U.S. should note that the requirements checklist is a bit different. For an overview, see the Land arrival measures diagram.


Requirements for entry in Canada

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1. Mandatory 3-day stay in an authorized hotel at the traveller’s expense (only until August 8, 2021)

The government has announced that this requirement will be eliminated as of August 9, 2021. Individuals who have received all required doses of an approved vaccine are also exempt (see item 4 below). If you enter Canada before that date, a 3-day reservation in an authorized hotel in the city where you land is required. Price varies depending on the hotel (around $1,000 to $1,200). Get sure to have the proof of this reservation with you for boarding. Note that a few people are exempted from testing on arrival and from the 3 days at the hotel, including those who are able to prove a resolved COVID-19 infection with a positive test performed within 14 to 90 days prior to boarding.


2. A COVID-19 test performed within 72 hours prior to flight

Any passenger boarding a flight to Canada has to provide a negative COVID-19 test result. This is the responsibility of each passenger to find a way to be tested if the airlines do not propose a solution. Note that the proof must also show the date the test was done.


3. Health status at time of flight

Air carriers are instructed by Transport Canada to deny boarding to any person with symptoms related to COVID-19 or not wearing a face covering. Travellers should not forget their face shield and should ideally take out cancellation insurance in case they are denied boarding for health reasons.

4. Quarantine plan

Everyone entering Canada must have a plan to place themselves in quarantine for 14 days, which comply with quarantine guidelines (PDF). The support person may assist in preparing the plan.

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Fully vaccinated travelers are exempt from quarantine. They must still have a quarantine plan in place in case the vaccine evidence is rejected. The proof of vaccination must be attached in ArriveCAN within 72 hours prior to boarding. If you do so a few days in advance, you should get approval before you fly. If the proof is rejected for an arrival before August 9th, you must book the 3-day stay in an authorized hotel.


5. Immediate family members: written authorization required

If a member of your immediate family (common-law partner, spouse, children) comes at a later date, he/she must also be exempt from travel restrictions. This is the case when a study or work permit is approved for him/her. If not, see in which cases and how a written authorization for family reunification should be requested. Make sure you have unambiguous evidence and ask for an authorization when in doubt.

Students may refer to the If immediate family members want to be with you in Canada section on the following page. As for postdoctoral fellows, the following page may be consulted: see the If your immediate family members need to come to Canada section.

If you are unsure, you can contact the Canadian government’s COVID-19 Information Line at 1-833-784-4397. From outside of Canada, you can also call the Border Information Service at 1-800-461-9999 and request a transfer to the Information Line.


During the mandatory quarantine

Individuals arriving from abroad, especially if they do not know anyone in their host city, may have difficulty complying with their quarantine plan. Thisis why INRS appoints a support person to assist. In addition, a $1,500 flat-rate living allowance for the quarantine is automatically awarded to all individuals who need to be in quarantine. It aims at covering the costs associated with it. These measures do not apply if you are not exempt from quarantine.

A checklist (PDF) details the elements to be included in the quarantine plan. The most critical ones are summarized below.

Quarantine site

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A person coming to Canada must have a suitable place to isolate himself/herself until the 14th day following arrival: he/she must not be in contact with anyone unless someone is quarantining with him/her. Options of quarantine sites are suggested in the Checklist.


Transportation to the quarantine site

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People traveling to another region can take a domestic flight or train. However, local travel to the quarantine site must be done using private transportation. Some transportation options are proposed in our checklist.


Obtaining essential goods and credit card

The persons in quarantine cannot go out. They must be able to obtain the essential goods they will need through a third party. In addition, they should be able to reach the support person in case of a problem. Having a credit card is also useful to buy food and other goods online.


What to consider during your stay?

International students and trainees can quickly find themselves in a precarious situation in the context of a pandemic. It is important to anticipate the risks and plan accordingly.


A. The hazards of quarantine and lockdown

Psychological impacts and isolation

A person arriving from abroad often does not have a network of contacts in Quebec. The resulting lockdown and isolation can quickly become an issue. The INRS offers different psychological support resources. Insurance coverage also allows for a few consultation sessions with a psychologist. Finally, a mentor will help you build a network as soon as you arrive.


Computer and internet connection

Even if they are in Quebec, students and trainees may have to take distance classes and work from home. It is their responsibility to ensure that they have the necessary computer equipment and Internet service. If this proves to be an obstacle, students should talk to their supervisor to see if equipment or support might be available.


B. Potential closure in case of an increase spread of the virus

A further complete closure of INRS and its facilities is not impossible. It could mean that students and trainees would have to interrupt their activities. This could affect the financial support they normally receive. It is therefore important that they assess this risk with their supervisor and that solutions be identified.


C. In case of illness

It should be considered that students and trainees may be infected with the virus.


Health insurance

Students from some countries are covered by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ). The normal waiting period (in French) does not apply to tests and care related to COVID-19, which are free as of Day 1.


Students

Those who do not benefit from RAMQ have Desjardins’ health and hospitalization insurance for international students (ASHEE) as soon as they register. An individual who develops symptoms of COVID-19 is then covered for testing and care. For the fall 2021 term, insurance coverage begins on August 1st. If you arrive earlier, you must purchase a private health and hospitalization insurance for the days leading up to August 1.

However, with ASHEE insurance, if COVID-19 is contracted before arriving in the country and before coverage begins, it will be interpreted as a pre-existing condition. In this case, coverage will be limited to $10,000, which is not much in the event of hospitalization. Therefore, the student is advised:

  • If already registered, to take out ASHEE insurance as soon as possible, even before arriving ;
  • If registration has to be done after arrival, to take, upon arrival, a picture of his/her study permit and send it to registrariat@inrs.ca to finalize registration and be insured quickly.

Postdoctoral fellows

All of them are required to take out private health and hospitalization insurance. Those who will benefit from the RAMQ must also have private health insurance for the first three months.


Considerations for distance studies

For fall 2021, international students may no longer be able to register for distance learning: notification will be sent by email as soon as the context enables a decision to be made. For summer 2021, distance learning is a way of starting or continuing one’s studies as planned, if the study project allows it. Nevertheless, this alternative is not without consequences.


Impact on the post-graduation work permit

For people who wish to remain in Canada after their training, the Quebec Experience Program (QEP) provides faster access to permanent residence. With the announcement of the reform (in French) of the QEP on May 28, 2020, applicants must meet certain work experience conditions. In summary, postdoctoral fellows must work 36 months in the last 48, including the postdoctoral fellowship; university graduates must work 12 months in the last 24.

International students may apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), in order to gain this experience, even if the studies were done online from outside of Canada between spring 2020 and fall 2021 (see this IRCC web page).

Under normal circumstances, the duration of the PGWP is based on the length of the study program, and distance courses taken outside Canada are excluded for the purpose of calculating the duration of the permit. Distance learning courses taken outside of Canada may be counted when determining the duration of the PGWP, as long as the registrant has applied for a study permit before starting his/her graduate program, which permit is eventually approved, and the other eligibility criteria are met.

Contact us: sve@inrs.ca


Last update: July 22, 2021

Questions? Please contact the Student Life Services.